A 20-year-old Chinese student pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of animal cruelty, domestic battery and witness dissuasion.
Duanying Chen was studying abroad at Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, California, last May when he was arrested after a local veterinarian raised concerns about injuries suffered by a puppy belonging to Chen’s girlfriend. These included broken bones, extensive burns, and damage to the dog’s rectum and genitals. The puppy later had to be put down.
The plea came just days after Chen’s mother, Hongling Hu, intervened to ask the judge in the case for leniency for her son.
Chen was a “straightforward, compassionate and cheerful person,” according to a letter sent by Hu to Judge Brian Hill.
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“We ask you to please consider how studying abroad created hardship for my son who has never left our side,” Hu wrote. She said that Chen and his girlfriend “dealt with problems and mood swings inappropriately” because their “parents are far away.”
Chen was also charged for strangling his girlfriend during an argument. During police questioning, the girlfriend said that Chen’s actions caused her to nearly lose consciousness.
Several days after the argument, Chen’s girlfriend returned home to find her puppy cowering under a table. It could not walk due to its injuries, some of which Chen had inflicted with a utility lighter.
The witness dissuasion charge arose later, when Chen violated a court order not to contact his girlfriend from jail.
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“Just say you lied about it,” Chen reportedly told his girlfriend over the phone. “You have to go and make a change and see if there is any evidence favorable to me. … If we can’t win the case, I don’t want to spend the money in fighting the case.”
Santa Barbara Police Sergeant Charles Katsapis testified in court in March that he discovered the call while conducting investigations and found it to be concerning. Chen’s attorneys have countered that in China, people are encouraged to settle cases out of court.
Chen is out on bail and is due to reappear for sentencing on June 30. He faces a possible prison sentence of seven years, according to the Office of the District Attorney.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons, Santa Barbara Police Dept.